Three Players Juventus Should Sign in The Summer

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With Juventus on the brink of Champions League elimination after a number of unimpressive performances, it’s time for a squad overhaul. While Aaron Ramsey is a good start at addressing their woeful midfield, the Welshman alone will not be enough to propel the bianconeri to European glory. In defence, Juventus’ core is getting old with Leonardo Bonucci showing signs of wear and tear. Daniele Rugani, by contrast, has frankly not lived up to the hype and has proven to be nothing more than a luxury option off the bench. Up top, on the other hand, it’s time Juventus sign a young, link-up target man, as Dybala, Ronaldo and Mandzukic have been an awkward fit for one another. Here are three players Paratici should have at the top of his wish-list.

1) Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

Matthijs de Ligt needs no introduction and is without a doubt Europe’s top young defender at the moment. If you look up the definition of leader in the dictionary, the young Dutchman’s face will pop up. After having won the Golden Boy award in 2018, becoming the first defender to ever win the award, de Ligt has gone from strength to strength.

Right now, de Ligt is Ajax’s rock at the back, and is captaining the side deep into the Champions League, past European supergiants and reigning champions Real Madrid. Just last month, the 19-year-old became the youngest ever player to captain his side in a Champions League knockout clash, and has not looked one bit out of place.

While competition for the defender’s signature will be at an all-time high, Paratici and co. must go all out and sign de Ligt. If it takes 80 million euros, then so be it. With Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli on the wrong side of 30, it’s time to refresh their backline, and what better place to start than with de Ligt. Despite his age, the Dutchman is arguably already in the top ten defenders in the world, and must emerge as a priority for the bianconeri. Otherwise, Juventus’ elite defence of the past will become nothing but a distant memory.

2) Tanguy NDombele (Lyon)

For the past two seasons, Juventus’ midfield has held the side back in Europe’s elite competition and cannot be ignored come summertime. With Ramsey already on his way on a bosman transfer, Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele would be an ideal fit alongside Juventus’ current options.

NDombele is a one-man midfield, and has consistently proven he can cut it at the highest level, especially in Lyon’s most recent clash against Barcelona. Much like de Ligt,the Lyon midfielder does not let his inexperience seep into his play, and largely dominates proceedings as if he’s a seasoned veteran in the middle of the park.

Alongside Ramsey and Pjanic, the Frenchman would be able to express himself freely and offer some much needed creativity without sacrificing industry. Right now, Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can have looked out of place in Allegri’s setup, and have proven to be far too limited for elite football.

Considering Paratici will have to deal with notorious negotiator, Lyon president and French businessman Jean-Michel Aulas, it won’t be easy. In any case, NDombele is Juventus’ best option to rebuild their midfield, both in the short-term and in the long-run.

3) Luka Jovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) 

This one is a bit trickier for Paratici. Safe to say, Ronaldo hasn’t yet blended in with Mandzukic and Dybala, despite his impressive goalscoring record, and Juventus require an all-round support striker to get the best out of him. At Real Madrid, Benzema acted as the Portuguese superstar’s foil.

With Mandzukic showing signs of slowing down, it may be time for Juventus to start looking at younger options up top. Since making the switch to Germany, Jovic has improved all aspects of his game and has developed into a real force to be reckoned with, scoring 21 goals and registering five assists in all competitions.

With Jovic alongside Ronaldo and Dybala behind them, whoever’s at the helm of Juventus, could recreate Zidane’s blueprint at Real Madrid and get the side scoring freely again. While it may not be an immediate need, Juventus will not have Ronaldo forever and must make the most of his presence while he’s in Turin. Jovic would go a long way in this respect.

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Barcelona eye Onana as Cillessen replacement

Andre Onana

Defending La Liga champions Barcelona are preparing a summer bid for Ajax goal keeper Andre Onana, according to reports in Spain.

The story, via respected radio station Radio Catalunya, statess that Ernesto Valverde is keen on bringing the Cameroonian international back to the club where he played as a youngster.

Onana, 22, signed for the Dutch side in 2015 – after five years as a youth team player at the Nou Camp – and he has impressed in over 100 senior appearances for them.

Continue reading

Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos is spinning out of control

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Sergio Ramos has always been a volatile player but he has also been such a figure head at the club and unquestionably one of the great defenders in world football as he has led Real Madrid to trophy after trophy, but lately it feels as if the player has lost the plot.

His latest problems started last week in the Champions League when Real Madrid the defending champions who have of course won the trophy for the past 3 seasons were playing Ajax away. Real won the game 2-1 but Ramos noticed something- that was he was one yellow card from suspension. If Real were to go through to the quarter finals which looks like it will now happen then he could have risked missing one of those games. However if Ramos was to be booked in this game against Ajax he would only miss the 2nd leg in Spain of which Real were winning 2-1. Ramos ended the game getting booked.

Conspiracies can start and end there as after the game Ramos appeared to say that he did indeed get booked intentionally to miss the next game. Of course UEFA have now opened up an investigation and if they find the player guilty then he could miss 2 or even 3 games in the competition.

Ramos admitted it and then changed his mind on Twitter, certainly the Real Madrid hierarchy had had a word with him. What is confusing is why did he admit it? And by doing so it showed a lot of disrespect to the opponent.

That aside at the weekend Ramos was in the news again. This time Real Madrid needing all of the points against Girona at home took the lead in the game only to end up losing the match 2-1 in what was seen as a big shock. The defeat could well effectively end the teams chances of catching Barcelona in La Liga, they are now 9 points behind their great rival and to make matters worse Atletico Madrid are in between them.

But this game isn’t over until it is over and Ramos put the icing on his week by getting sent off after receiving two yellow cards. So Madrid will be without him for their next game against away to Levante.

What is shocking is that the sending off at the weekend was Ramos’ 25th in his career and he is 32, with possibly another 2-3 seasons left at Madrid. Can he reach 30? For the club though this is another loss of a player that they need in defence. For Ramos the story continues and so does his consistency.

Ajax’s rollercoaster of a week

Erik Ten Hag

Every week seems to be an important one for Ajax at the moment, but this one was even more significant than most. It started in the Champions League and ended with an Eredivisie tie against NAC Breda which was made more significant by PSV’s result the day before.

Wednesday’s Champions League tie at home to Real Madrid was Ajax’s first knockout game in the competition since the 2004/05 season. They weren’t intimidated by the occasion at all though, as they dominated large periods of the play. They created chances as well, with Dušan Tadić hitting the post and Hakim Ziyech having a clear chance saved well by Thibaut Courtois.

Ajax were even the first to have the ball in the net, though it was ruled out for offside. A corner was sent into the box by Ziyech, Matthijs de Ligt won the initial header which popped up in front of Courtois. The Belgian stopper wasn’t able to catch the ball, as it his his shoulder and Nicolás Tagliafico was the first to react, heading it into the net. However, when VAR was used following the incident it was adjudged that Tadić had impeded Courtois from an offside position when the Argentine headed the ball in.

Despite being on top, Ajax hadn’t managed to get themselves on the score sheet and were punished for that on the hour mark. Vinicius Junior drove with the ball at his feet, worked his way into the box before cutting across both centre backs and laying the ball off to Karim Benzema who finished the move off clinically to make the score 1-0 to Real Madrid.

Ajax struck back in the 75th minute when David Neres was played in behind the Madrid defence and cut the ball back to Ziyech. When the ball reached the Moroccan he made no mistake, side footing the ball past Courtois. However, Real Madrid retook the lead in the 87th minute when Daniel Carvajal’s ball across goal was converted by Marco Asensio. There was some controversy with this though, as Lucas Vasquez appeared to foul Frenkie de Jong off the ball during the build up which wasn’t reviewed by VAR. This means that Ajax now go to Madrid with a deficit to make up.

Once the game was over Ajax’s thoughts will have turned to the Eredivisie despite their frustrations. That means keeping an eye on PSV’s results as well as getting wins of their own at the moment, as Ajax went into the week seven points behind the league leaders.

PSV’s match against Heerenveen was yesterday and gave Ajax plenty of encouragement. The leaders went two goals down for the second game in a row. However, PSV had equalised with a late goal last time out and did so again this time around. This time it was a 95th minute strike from substitute Donyell Malen which earned PSV a draw. Despite them managing to salvage a point, the result meant there was still an opportunity for Ajax to close the gap by two points.

Ajax had to be patient in today’s game, as they were frustrated by NAC Breda’s deep defensive line in the early stages, but they eventually won comfortably. They were gifted their opener in the 38th minute when Ziyech’s free kick was handled by Dorian Dervite in the penalty area. Tadić stepped up to take the penalty and converted it, even with Benjamin van Leer diving the correct way.

The game opened up for Ajax once the first goal went in and they ended up winning 5-0, as Tadić got another, Kasper Dolberg got on the score sheet and NAC Breda deflected two efforts in which were called as own goals.

Ajax will be hoping to close the gap even further when they face ADO Den Haag next Sunday.

Ajax lose further ground on PSV

Andre Onana

Ajax’s Eredivisie title hopes have taken another knock this weekend as they lost to Heracles. They went into yesterday’s game five points behind league leaders PSV Eindhoven. Things could have been even worse for the Ajacied though, as PSV only managed to get a draw in today’s away game against FC Utrecht.

Ajax started their game poorly, giving away a penalty just six minutes in when Daley Blind fouled Joey Konings while trying to retrieve Frenkie de Jong’s misplaced pass. It was Brandley Kuwas who stepped up to take the spot kick for the men in black and white, but Andre Onana dived to his left and got a strong hand on the ball to keep it out with a little help from the post.

Just over 10 minutes later Onana undid his work though as he gifted Heracles the only goal of the game. He attempted to pass the ball out from the back but it was intercepted by Mohammed Osman. The Syrian midfielder gratefully took the chance to put his side ahead, placing the ball into the corner out of the reach of Ajax’s scrambling goalkeeper.

Ajax grew into the game in the second half after their initial struggles. However, they weren’t able to get past German stopper Janis Blaswich, who was in fine form. The pick of his saves came against Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who’d got onto the end of a ball into the box, did a step over to fool the defender before flicking it towards goal- only to find his effort stopped by a strong outstretched arm.

Ajax were left frustrated as the score ended 1-0 to the home side, though their eyes will have quickly turned to today’s PSV match hoping for another shock. It seemed as though that would come as goals from Sander van de Streek and Gyrano Kerk saw FC Utrecht go into half time 2-0 up against the league leaders.

However, PSV came out in the second half and immediately put Utrecht’s goal under sustained pressure. It paid off for them as Luuk de Jong bagged a brace to get the game back on level terms. Ajax could easily have been let off the hook in the dying moments though. Utrecht were controversially denied a penalty despite the use of VAR when Denzel Dumfries slipped in the box and took Simon Gustafson down with him.

These two results mean that Ajax are now six points behind PSV Eindhoven with 13 games of the league season remaining. The two sides will play each other at the end of March in a match which could prove to decide whether the Eredivisie title goes to Amsterdam or Eindhoven at the end of the campaign. However, Ajax will want to make up ground as early as possible and this is the second time since the winter break that they’ve failed to capitalise on a PSV slip up after drawing 4-4 with Heerenveen when PSV drew with FC Emmen in their first game back.

Ajax’s attention will now be turned towards their upcoming Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie against Real Madrid on Wednesday, their first knockout game in the competition since 2005. Their next chance to close the gap on PSV will come when they face NAC Breda on Sunday.

Ajax secure their place in the KNVB Beker semi final

Donny van de Beek

Just four days after throwing away a two goal lead to draw with Heerenveen, Ajax faced them again in the KNVB Beker quarter final last night. By surrendering the win they had also lost their opportunity to go top of the Eredivisie table, so will have been eager to put things right in the cup.

That was evident, as it took Ajax just over two minutes to get themselves ahead. Rasmus Nissen Kristensen was played down the line by Hakim Ziyech. When the Dane got to the ball he made a low pass into the box, which Donny van de Beek dummied for Noussair Mazraoui who finished the move with a first time side footed finish past Warner Hahn.

It only took them until the 16th minute to double their lead. Ziyech sent a corner to the back post, Matthijs de Ligt rose above his marker but couldn’t get a clean contact on the ball to send it towards goal. Instead it dropped down to van de Beek who was on hand to volley it into the net.

There was a moment of concern for Ajax though, as Mazraoui –who’d been playing in a central midfield role rather than at right back- was brought off injured in the 30th minute. The Moroccan had been hurt after making a shot in the 24th minute, he tried to play on but eventually had to be replaced by Lasse Schöne.

Ajax remained dominant after the change and added a third goal in the 38th minute. Daley Blind played a superb pass for Dušan Tadić to chase down the line. Once the Serbian got there he dinked it past the goalkeeper and into the six-yard box, where van de Beek beat the defender and pounced to get the ball into the goal.

Despite going into half time three goals up, Ajax will have been wary of giving Heerenveen any hope of getting back into the game after the events on Sunday. They remained comfortable for the majority of the match, dominating possession and controlling every aspect of the play.

That is until the 84th minute, when Kristensen received the ball from Schöne inside his own box and played a blind pass intended for André Onana. Rather than going back to the Ajax goalkeeper, it went straight to the feet of Pelle van Amersfoort who took one touch to turn, used another to get it out of his feet, opened his body and curled the ball out of Onana’s reach to make it 3-1.

Suddenly things didn’t seem so easy for the Amsterdammers as madness ensued. In the 88th minute debutant Lisandro Magallán conceded a penalty when he brought Sam Lammers down inside the box. The striker on loan from PSV had been the main thorn in Ajax’s side on the weekend, as it was his two goals which helped Heerenveen secure the draw, so there was a feeling he was going to upset the balance of the game again. However, his penalty was saved well by Onana, who sprung to his left to keep the ball out with his midriff.

That save was enough to quash any late comeback hopes from Heerenveen, with the final score settling at 3-1. Ajax will now face either Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar or Willem ll in the semi final as they look to win the KNVB Beker for the first time since 2010.

Ajax miss their chance to go top of Eredivisie

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Ajax will have gone into their winter break focused on the time they’d get a chance to overtake PSV Eindhoven. Sitting two points behind the league leaders with a superior goal difference, they were in the perfect position to take advantage of any mishaps by Mark van Bommel’s men.

They won’t have expected that opportunity to come as early as the first weekend back. However, the door was opened for them as an injury time equaliser from FC Emmen’s Nicklas Pedersen made the score 2-2 against the champions. Ajax went into their match against Heerenveen at the Johan Cruijff Arena knowing that a win would take them top of the Eredivisie.

They didn’t seem phased by the challenge in the early stages, as they took the lead just 13 minutes into the match. Schone played a short corner before getting the ball back and crossing it into the box. Dusan Tadic found himself completely unmarked just outside the six yard box and side footed the ball first time, sending it beyond goalkeeper Warner Hahn.

This was just the beginning of a whirlwind four minutes, as Heerenveen equalised within a minute. Sam Lammers –who himself is on loan from PSV- received the ball and turned. He managed to force his way past Daley Blind and hit it into the bottom corner to equalise.

Ajax were ahead again just two minutes later. Blind played a cross field pass to Tadic, who played a one-two with Hakim Ziyech. Upon receiving the return pass he got into the box and dinked the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper, restoring his side’s lead.

The score was made 3-1 before the half an hour mark due to calamitous defending from Heerenveen. Schone delivered the ball into the box from a free kick. It wasn’t particularly threatening until Stijn Schaars smashed his clearance up into the air, rather than up the pitch. Hahn came out of his goal in an attempt to retrieve the ball, but he completely misjudged it and took himself out of the game. As the ball dropped it landed on the head of Matthijs de Ligt and went into the goal via a deflection off Pelle van Amersfoort.

The home side were offered a chance to all-but secure the win in the last moments of the first half. They were awarded a penalty when Lucas Woudenberg was caught holding onto Donny van de Beek’s shirt. Tadic, who’d put in a faultless performance up until this point, stepped up to take the penalty, with a hat trick on offer. He hit the ball towards the centre of the goal, close enough to the goalkeeper for him to claw it away with his feet after diving. The half time whistle followed shortly, with Ajax in the driving seat but disappointed to not have put the game to bed.

That feeling of disappointment turned into worry just six minutes into the second period. Lammers was allowed to run forward with the ball and worked his way to the edge of the box. Once there he let off a strike which made its way into the bottom corner.

The scores were made level five minutes later. Ajax were caught over committing bodies, with both centre backs up the opposite end of the pitch. Heerenveen hit them with a counter attack and Mitchell van Bergen was able isolate Daley Sinkgraven. He twisted and turned away from the makeshift left back before firing home to make it 3-3.

Ajax came close to making a quick reply, with Kasper Dolberg having a header saved well and Ziyech hitting the post with a free kick. Heerenveen were almost given an opportunity of their own as a penalty decision was taken to VAR after Konstantinos Lamprou had collided with Lammers while attempting to punch the ball away, but the penalty wasn’t given.

It was Ajax who scored next, regaining their lead in the 83rd minute. Tadic had the ball on the left hand side and managed to work enough space to get a cross into the box. He hit it towards the back post where Klaas Jan Huntelaar –who’d only been on the pitch for four minutes- pulled away from Kik Pieri. Once the ball reached the substitute he stopped it dead with his first touch before firing it in off the post with his second. As it stood Ajax were 4-3 up and destined for top spot.

It seemed as though that story would remain, though that changed in the first minute of added time. A corner was sent into the box and Pieri made up for letting Huntelaar evade him by losing his man and flicking the ball past the goalkeeper.

Ajax almost got themselves back into the lead in the 94th minute, but luck wasn’t on their side as Schone’s shot bounced off the goalkeeper, onto a defender and back into his arms. As the final whistle blew, setting the 4-4 scoreline in stone, Ajax’s warn out men dropped to the floor in disappointment with the knowledge they’d missed their chance to go top.

They’ll have a chance to get revenge over Heerenveen, as they face them again on Thursday, this time in the KNVB Beker quarter final.

A look at Barca’s possible UCL opponents

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Lionel Messi issued a clarion call at the very beginning of the season where the Champions League was concerned.

That was the priority for Barcelona. No messing about, a stated aim to take home the trophy once again.

Drawn in the ‘group of death,’ the Blaugrana sailed through it, but now the real business begins.

Barcelona have six possible opponents they could draw in the Round of 16… Continue reading

Frenkie de Jong: Manchester City hot on Ajax talent

It’s that time of the season again where the international break allows the media to perhaps give fans a false sense of hope with ludicrous transfer rumours. But if they are to be believed then Manchester City could well find themselves ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid to land Ajax and The Netherlands defender/midfielder Frenkie de Jong.

The Premier League champions are ready to pay £61 million for Frenkie de Jong who could be a likely replacement for the ageing Fernandinho. The 21-year-old has also garnered interest from City’s neighbours, Manchester United however, the prospect of playing under Pep Guardiola as opposed to Jose Mourinho surely is a no brainer for the youngster. Continue reading

Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt – The Ajax duo who are wanted at the Camp Nou

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Barcelona have spent most of the La Liga 2018/19 season sitting confidently and dominantly in first place, though, they are only one or two points ahead of the likes of Deportivo Alaves and Sevilla.

Enersto Valverde’s side beat Real Madrid on the weekend in quite some fashion, as the main man in Luis Suarez stepped up Lionel Messi’s absence and notched up a hat-trick as the Blaugrana beat Los Blancos 5-1 at home. The hosts were a couple of steps ahead of the visitors from the start of the match till the end, which also led Real Madrid’s hierarchy with no choice but to sack Julen Lopetegui.

However, the side still seem to be out of their depth and unconvincing when their key individuals are either injured or suspended. Due to this, Barcelona are not able to effectively flex their ability or strength around the pitch like they have been doing so over the last decade in Europe and in Spain.

With the main talks being on the lack of depth in defence and midfield, Barcelona are reportedly aiming for reinforcements in both areas during the January transfer window, with the latest reports stating that they are targeting a certain duo from AFC Ajax in Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt.

According to the local and reliable reports in Spain, they believe that Enersto Valverde and the Barcelona board have been keeping tabs on both De Jong and De Ligt since the start of the season.

With no further ado, it’s time to look at the duo who play for the same club and country…

Frenkie De Jong

Regarded as one of the most impressive and talented central midfielders in Europe right now, Frenkie De Jong is proving himself as an individual that is calm, cool and collected no matter which position he plays in. He has revealed his ability and composure to be able to play as a defensive midfielder and even as a centre-back, showing that he is certainly ready to play at the highest level.

Thriving from his intelligent reading of the game and the types of passes he can produce, he has a huge influence on Ajax’s aesthetically pleasing style of play and is one of the many reasons to why the Netherlands international team are expected to return to the position where they belong.

Looking at his game as a whole, De Jong has successfully completed 430 out of the 467 passes he has attempted so far this season, clearly implying that his technical ability is top notch and he has the tranquility to pass with both feet. The youngster is always positive when he is in possession of the ball, especially when he has the rock solid confidence to pick out a short or long pass when needed.

Alongside his number of abilities, the only concerning weakness is that he is a vital individual towards the way his side plays and it does come with a risk of being caught out of a defensive position, unless a teammate can step into his role if necessary. However, game after game, De Jong’s experience and understanding of the game will allow him to be at the right place at the right time.

Having produced 16 interceptions and 13 tackles in eight league appearances, the Arkel-born central midfielder is certainly managing his way of influencing the game on and off the ball. The 21-year-old has also shown the ability to lead the line in his own way, making him a player that is potentially worthy of becoming a captain in the future, whether that is at Ajax or at another club in Europe.

The Eredivise side are not expected to sell the midfielder during the January transfer window, as a deal of sorts could cause some harmony issues within the dressing room whilst it would take the Dutch club a number of weeks to a month to find the perfect replacement for Frenkie De Jong.

Matthijs De Ligt

When looking at the defenders Barcelona’s squad, both Gerard Pique and Thomas Vermaelen are coming towards their final years of their footballing career whilst Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti are regarded as the two individuals the club can rely on in the long run. On the other hand, the La Liga giants would have a complete backline if they are able to bring in centre-back Matthijs De Ligt.

Pique and Umtiti are the regular starters at the heart of defence for Valverde’s men, however, the potential arrival of De Ligt would allow the team to be much more composed and dominant in possession of the ball. His burst of pace would also be helpful on both sides of the pitch, from being able to intercept or tackle as the last man defender to being utilised as a ball-playing centre-back.

The 19-year-old has already been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Real Madrid and many other well-known European clubs, clearly showing that he has the potential to be one of the best players within his position one day. Though, it will be up to the player himself to personally decide for when he is ready to make the big move to one of the best clubs in Europe.

De Ligt’s breakthrough season at Ajax came during the 2016/17 campaign, where he was producing remarkable displays as well as becoming a key member for the club that went on to reaching the UEFA Europa League finals. He finished that season with an impressive figure of over 20 appearances in all competition, which was a total dream come true for someone who was only 17 at the time.

Since then, the rising youngster from Leiderdorp has become a popular person as he is regularly watched by a large number of European football supporters. Furthermore, his incredible intelligence mentally and tactically is simply one of a kind, something that cannot be easily said for majority of the defenders that play in Europe, making him a generational talent as a complete centre-back.

Given that Matthijs De Ligt has all the tools he needs in order to thrive in La Liga, a move from Ajax to Barcelona during the January transfer window should not be ruled out all. With President Josep Maria Bartomeu and the rest of the board looking to constantly be ahead of the other European clubs on and off the pitch, they could surely aim to make a statement signing in two months time.